A country known for its breathtaking and sweeping landscapes, New Zealand has become a bucket-list destination, especially for those who like to take slow travel to the ultimate level—on their own two feet.
While multi-day trails dubbed “The Great Walks” are the most popular among experienced hikers, there are many spectacular walkways and tracks that only take a few hours, while still providing access to the country’s unique wilderness areas and virgin forests.
From volcanic peaks to lush rainforest, pristine lakes, towering waterfalls and long empty beaches, these day walks offer it all. Short walks, which can last from 30 minutes to three hours, will appeal to those with compact itineraries and allow people to sample New Zealand’s varied natural heritage. On the other hand, day hikes, which take up to seven hours, will encourage visitors to explore more of a region while not having to commit to the full multi-day trail experience.
Discover New Zealand's wonders first-hand when you take one of the country's many spectacular day hikes.
Scale a peak in Auckland
Visit the peaceful, predator-free Rangitoto Island – arrive by boat to conquer this dormant volcano. The popular summit walk runs for around two hours, beginning at the wharf and climbing through lava fields and the world's largest pohutukawa forest to the island’s peak at 259m above sea level. The red-flowering pohutukawa trees, which are used to produce honey, cover the island in spring and summer, providing a picture-perfect contrast against the stark grey lava surfaces. At the summit, you will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of New Zealand's largest city and surrounding Hauraki Gulf islands.
Regular ferries to Rangitoto depart from Auckland’s ferry terminal and from Devonport wharf. The trip takes about 25 minutes, and you should aim to spend about half a day on the island. For those looking to really take it easy, there is also the option of going up via a 4WD road-train, where you will arrive at the base of the summit, and from there it’s just a short climb to the very top for epic views. The guided tour operates every day except Christmas Day.
Take in the luxuriant rainforest and lakeside in Te Anau
Fiordland is famous for multi-day walks such as the Milford Track, but you can appreciate the national park’s special environment on an easy day walk from Te Anau. Starting at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Center, the walk takes you around the southern side of the lake past the Te Anau Wildlife Centre (where you can see the curious and endangered takahē bird), and through tussock grass to the control gates of the Manapouri Power Station. From here, follow the Kepler Track through primeval rainforest as far as the Dock Bay picnic area, and return the same way.
Te Anau is just over two hours drive from Queenstown. The town offers plenty of lakeside accommodation and has a relaxed feel. As well as trips to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, you can take a lake trip to see glow-worm caves.
Follow in the footsteps of pioneers along the West Coast
Flourishing native forest, a wild river, roaring waterfall, and dramatic gorge meet pioneering history on the South Island’s Charming Creek Walkway. Hike (or mountain bike) along this abandoned railway line, built by miners and loggers to haul timber and coal in the early 1900s. Spot the remains of old engines and carriages along this easy 3-hour trail, which travels 9km through tunnels, over bridges and along deep forested gorges. On a fine day, the “creek” tumbles amid boulders through a rocky canyon and, after rain, views of Mangatini Falls reveal a seething, angry torrent. Rain or shine, the walkway is dramatic.
Starting at Ngakawau, 35km north of Westport, or from the northern Seddonville end, you can walk the track and back in a day. Mountain biking is another option, as is staying at Rough and Tumble Bush Lodge, near Seddonville.
For more information on walking tours and how to book them, visit https://www.newzealand.com/int/day-walks/